Of Monsters and Men

FlotsaithI suspect a prerequisite of writing in the fantasy genre is that there should appear a mythical monster or beast in my story which delays or hinders the hero’s progress in some way. One may appear yet in Books 2 and 3, but for now Book 1 of Prophecy of Innocence contains no such character or characters. Not even a minor one.

No doubt this will come as a disappointment to many who may automatically expect the heroes of our story to battle and slay some terribly hideous creature at some point. So why have I chosen to omit such a key element of the genre?

Firstly and foremost  there has been no reason as of yet, to include one in order to propel the story forward. The enemies – the ‘baddies’ if you will -are human beings. In Prophecy men are the monsters. Therefore it seems superfluous to include any further major adversaries at this juncture.

Ah, you say, but what about Harry Potter? His enemy is Lord Voldemort, a wizard like Harry (albeit it a much more twisted, evil and warped version of a wizard). However, despite this,  the seven books are still littered with wonderful creations and versions of traditional mythical beasts, such as the three headed dog or the giant spider Aragog. Similarly in The Lord of the Rings trilogy we encounter the Balrog , Shelob and Orcs to mention but a few, although they are all minor characters when you think of Frodo’s ultimate quest. Nevertheless, these beasts exist in the stories and help to shape them. That is fine for those stories and other similar ones, but I just didn’t feel the inclusion of this type of character would add anything to Prophecy of Innocence. Yet.

Secondly, upon reflection, the exclusion of mythical type creatures was not even as conscious a decision as the above paragraph might suggest.  I think actually they are not included simply because the mythical beasts and creatures element of fantasy fiction does not excite me very much. It never has, even as a child. And if I have no passion for such an element then I don’t believe I will write about it effectively. The fantastical beasts, monsters or creatures found in such stories are generally the aspect of the tale I find least interesting, perhaps because I know they will be slain or overcome and so there is an anticipated and expected outcome. Personally, I rarely feel they add much. There are exceptions of course, such as The Dementors in the Harry Potter books, but essentially monsters and beasts are usually a means to an end. Either to hinder or help a character. I have simply found other means of hindering and helping my main protagonists.

As I am writing a children’s book, am I missing a trick here? Do children need and expect monsters in their fantasy stories? In the feedback I have received from children so far there has been no request to add any in or disappointment voiced at there being none included. Perhaps children just enjoy a good story with or without mythical beasts.

In both the epics mentioned above it has been more the struggle the main protagonists face against their own kind (essentially the human nature of the characters, even if they are not actually human beings) which has kept me gripped.

What is it that causes  Tom Riddle,  an ordinary wizard to begin with, turn to such evil? What is it about the nature of hobbits and men in LOTR which allows the ring to corrupt them so?  In Prophecy of Innocence  the themes of power,  good versus evil and the internal conflicts and struggles among beings exist, just as they do in many other traditional fantasy tales. The difference is I have chosen to explore these themes without the monsters.

Is mine a classic fantasy adventure tale in the true sense? Perhaps not. But then where’s the fun in doing exactly what’s been done before?

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